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Hubbard County going after deliquent debtors

PARK RAPIDS -- Credit card companies aren't the only ones accumulating bad debt.

Hubbard County transfer stations will soon take some delinquent debtors to court to collect overdue fees, and may have to write other debts off.

As the local economy continues to take a toll on the building trades industry, construction companies are leaving trails of debt in their wake.

Solid Waste Manager Vern Massie received permission to take two companies to court for past due debts. They are Feldt Plumbing of Detroit Lakes, which owes $810, and Spruce Hill Tree Service of Rice, which owes the county $600.

Six other companies in debt will have their dumping privileges suspended until they settle their past due accounts. They are:

-Branstrom Construction of Ponsford, $80;

-Byer Construction of Osage, $445;

-Gus Forsman KR Construction of Park Rapids, $100;

-John Ford of Hackensack, $25;

-Josh Stark of Menahga, $142;

-Tim Yliniemi of Park Rapids, $48.

In other action Jan. 5, the board:

-Passed a new timber sale extension policy. Slumping timber sales and prices have resulted in 60 outstanding contracts piling up in county offices.

Loggers will now receive one-year extensions due to market conditions on contracts that expire in 2010. They will include a 10 percent charge on the uncut timber balance.

"If we're not getting 'em cut we're not doing what our long-range plan" calls for, commissioner Cal Johannsen said.

-Awarded the legal newspaper bid to the Northwoods Press. The Park Rapids Enterprise did not bid the contract.

-Reported the collection of 97 percent of the county's taxes.

-Approved Solid Waste contracts for recycled goods as follows: 60 cents per gallon for used oil, $130 per hour for bulldozer rental, $90 per ton for scrap metal recycling and miscellaneous prices for other recycled goods.

-Approved three contracts with vendors to outfit the county's new squad vehicles with decals and other equipment salvaged from the vehicles that will be retired from the fleet.

One vendor is Chief Deputy Jerry Tatro, who operates a small auto rehabbing business on his off-duty hours.

Commissioners discussed conflicts of interest and arms' length transactions, and accepted Tatro's low bid of $3,750 to install new equipment in the county's new Crown Victoria squad cars and a Ford Explorer SUV.

Tatro underbid the nearest competitor by $1,000. The county conditioned his bid on his business having sufficient liability insurance.

"He's done work for us before," Sheriff Frank Homer told the board. "He does a really good job."

-Authorized the County Attorney to prosecute a dozen cases in which homeowners have not paid for E-911 signs or street signs for their properties.

"It's more money than it's worth to pursue these cases," complained board chair Lyle Robinson.

"There's the larger issue of the county allowing it to go," said Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf.

Commissioners discussed changing county ordinances that would allow them to assess the emergency identifiers with a resident's taxes.

"I have conferred with legal counsel who verified that our policy of addressing locatable structures when they are identified (regardless of whether or not payment for signs is obtained from the landowners) is the best route to go in terms of managing potential liability," Buitenwerf wrote to the board. "Counsel states that small claims court is the best mechanism to use for collecting fees in these situations where landowners refuse to pay the sign fees for which they are responsible."

The board authorized Buitenwerf to seek prosecution in a shore impact zone in which the homeowner built an illegal storage building and has not taken corrective actions to remove it.